How to walk a puppy that doesn't want to walk on the leash

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Doesn´t your puppy want to walk anymore? Is your puppy scared to go on walks? One of the things that frustrate the owners the most is that their dog does not want to walk when they put the leash on him. The walk should be the most important and entertaining activity for both our dog and us, but if he does not want to walk on a leash, it becomes the opposite, since that, instead of enjoying the ride, we initiate a continuous "fight" to advance and fruitless attempts to encourage him to walk.

If this happens to us, we should stop for a moment to think why our dog does not want to walk when he wears the leash, we should try to find the best solution to encourage him to do so, and accustom him to walking on the leash without feeling fear or stress. Remember that you can ask all your questions to our online ethologists.

The main causes why our dog does not want to walk on a leash when we go for a walk are the following:

My dog doesn't want to walk anymore

Lack of habituation. It is very common in puppies and in adult dogs that have never gone out on a leash before (for example, abandoned young dogs or dogs that have always lived on a farm).

If he is not used to walking on a leash, it is normal for him to feel insecure and even fearful when walking with this unknown element. Sometimes, the problem is not the leash itself, but the collar or the harness, since he feels the unknown elements on his body. Many dogs, when feeling these elements on their body, stop on their tracks and remain motionless.

My dog sits down and does not want to walk, what do I do?

Negative experiences associated with the leash. Unlike the previous case, our dog will stop walking well with the leash and not wanting to walk when he notices it is set. This is due to a negative association they made with this element and often with the collar or harness to which he is attached to.

For example, if our leash management is very rough and we give continuous dry jolts, not only we are generating tension to the dog, but we even generate discomfort and pain (especially in the neck region if we use a collar and in the region of the back if we use harness).

My dog doesn't want to walk in the morning

Our dog will learn after several repetitions that wearing the strapped leash is unpleasant for him and, in an attempt to avoid it, he will prefer to stay still and not move forward instead of continuing to walk as he fears he will keep suffering jolts.

Negative experiences associated with the walk. In this case, the problem is more global than if the negative association happened solely with the control of the leash.

If during some of his walks our dog has experienced some very negative experience for him, he can develop a situation where he shows fear about elements of the environment (noise, dogs, people, ...), so that, when going out for a walk, he will not want to move. In these cases, usually, our dog will not want to go for a walk regardless of whether we use to set him with the leash or not, since the fear and insecurity has nothing to do with the leash itself, but with the environment.

My dog does not want to walk and trembles

Now that we know the possible causes why our dog does not want to walk on the leash, we can now establish appropriate guideline treatments to ensure that the leash ride is not a dramatic odyssey.

If we have a puppy, it is important to start to accustom him from the beginning to the collar or harness and to the leash. We can begin putting them on for short periods of time at home, so he gets in contact with these elements used on the walk. If he is unsafe, we can award him while he is wearing the collar or harness and when he is walking with the strap on, so that it is positive reinforcement.

If our dog, due to lack of habituation or traumatic experiences, already manifests a clear problem with the leash, we must try two things: on one hand we need to make him get used to it in a progressive and positive way, as in the case of puppies; and on the other hand, we should start with short walks with the leash on and, if possible, in quiet places without too many stimuli.

What to do with a dog that does not want to go for a walk

Something essential in these cases is to learn to have smooth and gentle handling with the leash. Otherwise, the leash will always be a negative element for our dog and it will be difficult to get used to walking calmly with it on.

For this there are some basic recommendations that we must always comply with: avoid giving him dry and sharp jolts that may bother and hurt him, use a long leash (at least 1.5-2 meters) so he has more freedom of movement and he does not feel too tense for not having enough space, rewarding him for every positive advance he has when we go for a walk and he is wearing a leash.

If the problem of our dog is due to negative experiences with the environment (fears or phobias) or despite adopting good management guidelines you cannot make progress with him, you can consult a good canine educator to help you and your companion to do leash-guided walks and that they become normal and positive for both.

Borja Ros Villanueva, veterinarian and ethologist in Adetcan.
Adetcan is a project formed by two veterinary ethologists and canine educators who provide counseling, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of behavioral problems in dogs and cats. The service is at home. We are in Santiago de Compostela but we work throughout Galicia.